A Department of Natural Resources specialist says the loss of water in the tiny eastern Iowa town of Charlotte for nearly one month is unusual. Residents have been unable to drink or cook with the water from their faucets since early this month after work on a new well contaminated the water supply. Mike Anderson of the D-N-R says the size of the water system made it tougher to clear out the contaminants– and kept the drinkable water from flowing until Tuesday afternoon. He says what you do is try to determine the extent of the problem and isolate it with valves and things, but he says bigger towns can do that easier because they have a bigger system. He says Charlotte was left the option of flushing and “superchlorinating” the water. He says superchlorinating puts 10 to 12 times the normal amount of chlorine into the water to get rid of the contaminants — but then you can’t use the water for drinking or cooking until the system is flushed out. Tom Witt took over as Charlotte’s interim water supervisor midway through the problem, and says they got by with a lot of bottled and canned water. He says there were a lot of donations from places, but he’s sure it was an inconvenience to have to use bottled water. Witt says the 450 residents of the Clinton County town got through the water problem without major complaining. He says from what he saw people were just waiting and waiting through the delays and it seemed to go pretty well. Anderson says when Des Moines lost water back in 1993, the city had lots of resources to draw on to get things going again. He says small towns don’t have those types of resources, so the D-N-R gives a lot of help. Anderson says fortunately he’s not seen many problems like Charlotte’s.He says some of his field offices have seen some cross contamination cases on a smaller scale, but he says the size of this contamination and the amount of time residents had to drink bottled water was “very unusual.” Witt says the new well that was being drilled was capped off after it was contaminated, and the town will now have to decide what to do about another well.
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